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There’s probably no God…

This just in from RichardDawkins.net:

Today, thanks to many Cif readers, the overall total raised for the Atheist Bus Campaign stands at a truly overwhelming £135,000, breaking our original target of £5,500 by over 2400%. Given this unexpected amount, I’m very excited to tell you that 800 buses – instead of the 30 we were initially aiming for – are now rolling out across the UK with the slogan, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”, in locations all over England, Scotland and Wales, including Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, York, Cardiff, Devon, Leeds, Bristol and Aberdeen.

There probably is no God

Three questions:

(1) What exactly is the probability that there is no God?

(2) In times past the state was concerned that people believe in God because they saw faith as curbing human wickedness (God holds us accountable for our actions and will see that in the end justice is served–so watch what you do). Wouldn’t it therefore be more honest for the atheists to put up the slogan: “There probably is no God. Now watch your back because no one else is.”

(3) Is it a coincidence that the world’s leading atheist is also a pathological Darwinist?

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135 Responses to There’s probably no God…

  1. To spell out point 2 more explicitly,

    compare “…Stop worrying and enjoy life”

    to

    “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” ( Math 6:31-33 NIV ).

    I find – “here is a prescription – follow the righteous ways of God’s kingdom ( which includes all sorts of safeguards against destructive behavior, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t take advantage of weaker people… – and all kinds of behavior which promotes a prosperous society – be devoted to family, love one another, be courteous, kind, respect private property…) and you will find that all the things you worried so much about getting will come in abundance. ”

    far superior to

    “your on your own, remember, its survival of the fittest, so watch out!”.

    I make this conclusion that the teaching of Jesus is better, not on some willy-nilly speculation, but based on my own observations, and the observations of disinterested observers.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t.....400568.ece

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12......html?_r=1

    Wow! relying on the field observations of disinterested observers – sounds like the scientific method to me.

  2. Years ago there was a Russian mathematician that claimed he had a formula that proved the existence of God. Do you know anything about that?

  3. I found it ironic that the pop up ad on this page happened to be for the DVD “The God Who Wasn’t There”.

  4. Lemme see if I’ve got this straight.

    800 buses are going be criss-crossing the UK, just as the worst economic times worldwide since the Great Depression are beginning to really to bite. And they are going to be plastered with the slogan:

    There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

    The irony of it. For me, it is impossible to do justice to it in writing. Mainly because of the difficulty I’m having, in order to fill in the blanks, in getting up from off the floor laughing.

    The vacant stares from the newly-unemployed as they watch the advertisement roll by come to mind as a for-instance…

    Suffice to say, this news is more proof-positive that there IS a God. (Not to mention that there are blithering fools with £135,000 to throw away inadvertantly proving it.)

    Harf.

  5. (1) Bayesian, not frequentist interpretation of probability is appropriate here. By the way, what is the frequentist probability of the universe?

    (2) I think the American Humanist Association took care of that on our side of the pond with the “Be good for goodness’ sake” bus ads.

    (3) Probably not. ;)

  6. 6

    (1) What exactly is the probability that there is no God?

    Dawkins outlines his arguments against the existence of God in The God Delusion. Just be glad he toned it down from the original “almost certainly no God”. (It probably wouldn’t fit on the bus).

    (2) In times past the state was concerned that people believe in God because they saw faith as curbing human wickedness (God holds us accountable for our actions and will see that in the end justice is served–so watch what you do). Wouldn’t it therefore be more honest for the atheists to put up the slogan: “There probably is no God. Now watch your back because no one else is.”

    Are you admitting that you are only moral because you believe that God is watching? You don’t feel an innate desire to be good?

    (3) Is it a coincidence that the world’s leading atheist is also a pathological Darwinist?

    Dawkins has admitted numerous times that his acceptance of evolutionary theory led him to become an atheist.

    Now ask yourself:
    Is it a coincidence that the world’s leading ID proponent is an evangelical Christian? And ask yourself which view you adopted first, and which formed the basis for the other. (I’ve read your bio. I know.)

    By the way, didn’t you say you were going to try to limit discussion on UD to intelligent design? With no more religion/atheism, global warming, or politics?

  7. “…be good for goodness’ sake”? You’ve got to be kidding.

    In the absence of a transcendent directive to “love your neighbor as yourself,” is it not patently obvious that it’s a fool’s errand to respect the other guy’s interests if doing so interferes with one’s own?

    (If YOU want to be a starry-eyed idealist and follow “noble” values “for the greater good,” then bully for you; I see no personal advantage in that for me–and if all I can hope for is the here and now, I’ll be switched if I’m going to concern myself with the good of nameless others rather than my own enjoyment, when there’s no ultimate meaning to it anyway.)

    Does ANYONE actually believe that “good for goodness’ sake” crock? Are the folks who run such messages trying to play the rest of us for suckers? Or are they just too stupid to realize what they’re saying?

  8. Is it a coincidence that the world’s leading atheist is also a pathological Darwinist?

    Not by Dawkin’s own account. In The God Delusion he has a section called “Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser” in a chapter titled “Why there almost certainly is no God.

    BTW, his arguments are laughable, and his criticisms of a belief in God can be equally applied to evolutionism. As just one example, his arguments about infininite regress (if God is the creator, who created the creator?) apply to common descent, but he doesn’t turn his arguments against evoluiton.

    All in all, his book is good for a chuckle, and also useful in that you will be able to trace back arguments made by others on the internet to their hero, Dawkins.

  9. “Be good for goodness’ sake”
    I wondered if the pondered the implications of that with regard to as who gets to define “goodness”?

  10. And I’m going to say it again: It is more rational — infinitely more rational actually — to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster than to be a materialist.

    You can make a logically consistent case for ol’ FSM.

    You cannot be logically consistent and be a materialist — one who believes that if it can’t be measured in some way, it can’t exist — and insist that natural forces never observed and impossible to measure caused everything.

  11. A paternalist state and a Christian society are diametrically opposed?

  12. God’s iPod (#2), I believe it was the (Austrian? Austrian-American?) mathematician, Kurt Goedel (Godel), who came up with an interesting mathematical formalization of God’s existence. In fact, I believe our own Mr. Dembski has posted it before. I can’t seem to locate it though. Anyone? anyone?

  13. Oh, and I just happened upon this, found in G. K. Chesterton’s “What’s Wrong with the World”:

    “(I)t is enough to say that unless we have some doctrine of a divine man, all abuses may be excused, since evolution may turn them into uses.” (p. 22)

    I shudder to think of an imagined Chesterton/Dawkins debate; the forensic bloodshed would be, er, diluvian.

  14. A paternalist state and a Christian society are diametrically opposed?

    You are generally going to owe your primary loyalty to God or to the state so with regard to a “paternalist” state which demands primary allegiance, yes.

    And that is why state’s like to control religion and why Christians should be careful about where they place their loyalty.

    And it is possible to be in rebellion against both if what the state is demanding is just.

  15. Chesterton, or C.S. Lewis debating Richard Dawkins would be a slaughter I’m afraid. Chesterton debated an equivalent scientism oriented mind in Clarence Darrow, and won handily.

    http://chesterton.org/qmeister2/darrowdebate.htm

    The interesting thing is that both men, Lewis and Chesterton, have dealt with Dawkins’ arguments already. I really believe that if Dawkins were to spend some serious time with these authors he would, at least, be deflated, if not convert (if he is still sufficiently and honestly curious to consider both sides of these issues).

    John Lennox does a great job instead of debating Dawkins:

    http://www.dawkinslennoxdebate.com/

    It’s obvious to folks that are familiar with Lewis that Lennox is influenced by him. Also, he’s a mathematician, so he can also run circles around Dawkins on probabilities like our own Dr. Dembski can. If you read Lennox’s book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? it’s basically a synthesis of C.S. Lewis’s various arguments and Dr. Dembski’s arguments from his book No Free Lunch (in particular).

    Also, Dr. Berlinski does a fantastic job of debunking Dawkins in The Devil’s Delusion, Atheism and it’s Scientific Pretensions.

  16. 16

    A more honest and useful sign would say:

    “There is no God. Please provide a blood sample to the University Eugenics Department”

  17. Is it a coincidence that the world’s leading ID proponent is an evangelical Christian? And ask yourself which view you adopted first, and which formed the basis for the other.

    I was an atheist first, but abandoned it because I eventually found it to be an untenable belief that required too much faith that I could no longer muster. ID arguments played a major role. It is ironic: Darwinism, that great engine of atheism that was supposed to explain everything in biology, has turned out to explain really very little, and only the trivial, while design becomes an increasingly powerful thesis the more we learn about life and the universe.

    …his [Dawkins’] arguments about infinite regress (if God is the creator, who created the creator?)…

    This bewilders me. Dawkins surely knows that it is now well established that matter, energy, space, and time came into existence at the birth of the universe. It is therefore a simple logical deduction that whatever caused the universe did/does not exist in the time domain because time didn’t exist. That which does not exist in the time domain does not have a past, a history, a point of origin, or a creator, and therefore there is no regress.

  18. 18
    William J. Murray

    It’s odd that someone who doesn’t believe in free will would launch a campaign designed to appeal to a free will agent to change its mind concerning a belief in God.

  19. 19

    One argument for the probable existence of God is this: with sufficiently advanced technology, it should be possible to create conscious entities within a computer. The programmer is then essentially “God”…he stands outside time, and can change the laws of the universe on a whim.

    If one subscribes to the common materialist notion that there must be myriad advanced alien civilizations out there, then it stands to reason that they are running these simulations. For every one “real” universe, there must be hoardes of simulated ones with overseeings Gods.

    Of course, there are plenty of problems with these arguments from the non-materialist perspective (e.g. the existence of “ensouled” computers). But I’d be curious to hear the materialist Dawkins respond to them.

  20. …his [Dawkins’] arguments about infinite regress (if God is the creator, who created the creator?)…

    Someone who believes in a God who transcends the rules of nature that we understand can accept that there is a limit our understanding.

    Someone who believes everything can be understood cannot.

    Yet this person still cannot avoid infinite regress. What came before the Big Bang? The multiverse?

  21. Actually Steven Unwin (PhD in theoretical physics) wrote a book with a formula for calculating the the probability of God’s existence:
    Probability of God
    He uses Bayes’ theorem.

    How could anyone forget Kurt Godels ontological proof of the existence of God?

    As for Dawkins being a pathological Darwinist it is because he is a pathological atheist.

    ——————-
    As a side note, I too find it rather disturbing to see an ad for the God who wasn’t there on this site.

    Yet another piece of idiotic, sciolist hubris that depends upon complete ignorance in it’s listeners to get by without scathing rebuke.

    The authors of that piece of tripe ought to be tarred and feathered.

    Dan Brown must have something to do with that – or is it the illuminati? ;-)

  22. 22

    It is therefore a simple logical deduction that whatever caused the universe did/does not exist in the time domain because time didn’t exist.

    If the supposed creator exists “outside the time domain” (the concept remains unproven and is possibly incoherent), then he or she could not have “created” anything, as “create” logically supposes a TIMEFRAME in which a non-extant object becomes extant at some later TIME.

  23. Tim and God’s iPod:

    Regarding Godel’s ontological argument, you might find these links useful.

    Christopher Small has an excellent Web site on Godel’s argument. It can be found at http://www.stats.uwaterloo.ca/.....ology.html .

    Additionally, he has written an essay, entitled “Reflections on Godel’s Ontological Argument,” which can be found at

    http://www.stats.uwaterloo.ca/.....vision.PDF

    I don’t like to comment on ontological arguments, as their suasive power varies greatly for different people, religious and non-religious alike. However, Godel’s version is a very interesting argument.

  24. RickToews (7):

    In the absence of a transcendent directive to “love your neighbor as yourself,” is it not patently obvious that it’s a fool’s errand to respect the other guy’s interests if doing so interferes with one’s own?

    I believe that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is indeed the Golden Rule. But it happens that Confucius said it first. From Wikipedia:

    Adept Kung asked: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?”

    The Master replied: “How about ‘shu’ [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?”
    Analects XV.24, tr. David Hinton

    Eastern ethics do not come from on high.

  25. (2) In times past the state was concerned that people believe in God because they saw faith as curbing human wickedness (God holds us accountable for our actions and will see that in the end justice is served–so watch what you do). Wouldn’t it therefore be more honest for the atheists to put up the slogan: “There probably is no God. Now watch your back because no one else is.”

    Well, no. Nowadayas, (since the timem when religious people were the spearhead in ending slavery) the state (i.e. the elites who control the state) dislike faith because when it comes to morality they would rather have the final say, i.e. God is competition with the state when it comes to establishing what is right or wrong. That was the main impetus for the “evolution project” being fully supported by the elites who control states.

    For example: The elites and the state were all for evolution because it allowed them to come with the concept of “less evolved” humans. It was a huge project meant to accomplish two goals;

    1) To give moral authority to the state for their goal of taking over and then the ruthless ruling of “less evolved” human species who happened to live in countries which were full of natural resources, e.g. Africa, India, South America, Asia. Evolution and it’s cousin eugenics was specifically promoted by the elites for that goal. An example is how communist countries outlaw religion. Another example is the attempts to get ID banned in the European Union. Another example is any form of ID being banned in public school, while forcing the teaching of evolution as absolute truth and any type of creationism as quaint fables.

    2) To inspire people to lose faith in religious teachings. If a religious teaching says that there are things that shouldn’t be done because God is watching and there will be karma, then that belief interferes with the goals of the state whenever it wants popular support for actions wich are considered immoral and subject to retribution from God if you do them, e.g. eugenics, slavery, imperialism, abortion, etc.

    Since the start of the evolution project another impetus has arisen, i.e. this is usually found amongst “scientists”, teachers, journalists, and assorted “intelligentsia”. They fear religious people will somehow gain enough political power to take away their rights. Therefore evolution is pushed as the new gospel and any form of ID or creationism is ridiculed as the beliefs of cretins, i.e. only mouth breathing rednecks don’t believe in evolution. They believe that it is their duty to make people lose faith in religion, and they will stop at nothing and say anything. They are usefull idiots for the elites who control the state.

  26. 26

    Sal Gal notes that Confucius stated a version of the Golden Rule before Christ and says “Eastern ethics do not come from on high.”

    Two errors in one brief sentence. First, there is no such thing as “eastern ethics.” There is only “ethics.” Ethics transcend both time and place. Secondly, ethics transcend time and place because they have a transcendent source, God.

    “All truth is God’s truth” Thomas Aquinas said. Should it surprise us that wise men throughout the ages apprehend and express that truth?

    Christianity is not unique in its ethics. The ethic taught by Christ is indeed the same ethic taught to a lesser degree of perfection by many wise men. Christianity is unique among religions not because Christ taught a different or new ethic. It is unique because unlike the founder of any other religion, Christ is God.

  27. —-Sal Gal: “I believe that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is indeed the Golden Rule. But it happens that Confucius said it first.”

    —-”Eastern ethics do not come from on high.”

    I think RT’s point was that if it didn’t come from God, there is no reason to follow it.

  28. Barry

    Many Hindu traditions consider their traditions to have been founded by God in human form.

  29. Sal Gal, this is what the apostle Paul said regarding this:

    Rom 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
    Rom 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

  30. Down under, the atheists wanted to run a similar campaign, but the advertisers wouldn’t take their money. Who knows why?

    One of their slogans was to be “Celebrate reason” to which Christians may reply “We have reason to celebrate!”

    Richard Dawkins and his paranoid deluded ones, who are spooked by the god who does not exist, will only end up driving people back to faith.

  31. To mentok:
    “the state (i.e. the elites who control the state) dislike faith because when it comes to morality they would rather have the final say, i.e. God is competition with the state when it comes to establishing what is right or wrong.”

    I think that is a consequence of allowing people to have different religions don’t you?

  32. To idnet.com.au

    Interesting story about Australia is there a clue at all why the advertisers wouldn’t take their money?

  33. Gil Dodgen @ 17

    This bewilders me. Dawkins surely knows that it is now well established that matter, energy, space, and time came into existence at the birth of the universe. It is therefore a simple logical deduction that whatever caused the universe did/does not exist in the time domain because time didn’t exist. That which does not exist in the time domain does not have a past, a history, a point of origin, or a creator, and therefore there is no regress.

    Shouldn’t we be cautious about assuming what, if anything, might exist beyond our Universe? Perhaps there is ‘something’ there which is not just beyond our logic and science but beyond our imaginations as well.

    I remember a physicist trying to describe what we might see if a spaceship which existed in five or more dimensions traversed our four-dimensional spacetine – the strange, distorted shape that would wriggle and expand before us then contract and disappear.

    In attempt to help us understand, he said try to imagine being a two-dimensional creature watching a three-dimensional human being move through your flat universe. You would see something like those progressive cross-sectional images as the scanner moves down the body. They would be images of the human body but it would look nothing like what we see in three dimensions.

    We’re all familiar with the following quote, which I thought was by Sir Arthur Eddington but Wikipedia attributes to J B S Haldane:

    I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

    *Possible Worlds and Other Papers (1927), p. 286

    It’s a salutary reminder to us not to be too certain of what we know. Imagine how our knowledge of the Universe compares with that of people two thousand years ago and then how our knowledge might compare to that of people two thousand years hence – assuming we’re still around then, of course. It would be foolish to assume we have plumbed the depths of all that there is after so little time.

  34. Yellowshark comments at 6:
    ———-
    Are you admitting that you are only moral because you believe that God is watching? You don’t feel an innate desire to be good?
    ———-

    I dont think this is the case. I believe both Christians and non Christians behave to a certain point because we all have the law imprinted in our minds (Rm 2). After being saved is that i started feeling this desire to do nice things according to God. Doing nice things in order to promote goodness without God is not goodnes, but pragmatism.

    But anyways, i also believe people are naturally bad. Honestly, i would really like to see Dawkins working as a teacher in a public school in Brazil. Then he would see what true human nature really is and rethink this sort of advertising on buses.

  35. Sal Gal (#23),
    Barry Arrington (#25) and StephenB (#26) have given an obvious answer to your proposition that Confucius, whose ethics supposedly did not come from on high, anticipated Jesus.

    Frankly, your prejudices are showing. I am surprised (although perhaps I shouldn’t be) that you did not see this obvious answer to the problem you posed. It’s almost as if you supposed that all “creationists” (including ID types) were exclusive bigots who couldn’t admit anyone else ever had a good idea.

    Now, you could argue that Barry and Stephen were not “fundamentalists”, as IIRC both are Catholic. But I am Protestant (and an actual creationist, although be careful about your stereotypes there also) and would wholeheartedly agree with them that all truth is God’s truth, that there isn’t an “eastern ethics” and a “western ethics”, but rather only one ethic of which different people and cultures have a clearer or more distorted view. And the accurate parts of their view of ethics comes from God. I would go further and say that people like Confucius and Zoroaster may very well be saved by the grace of God (and I wouldn’t put it past Barry and Stephen to agree with me).

    You might want to learn how conservative Christians think before posing supposed stumpers.

  36. All:

    Pardon a note or two — make that, three::

    1] The Christian Faith claims that core morality is universal:

    In the major theological Epistle in the NT — which has recently been dismissed as an “obscure letter” by a major US politician — we find a major part of the framework for Christian theology, philosophy and ethics. Two major passages relevant to0the Golden Rule are:

    Rom 2:14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . .

    RO 13:8b . . . he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    This is of course rooted in the Bible’s Creation-anchored worldview.

    2] Locke used this explicitly Christian frame as the basis for grounding principles of liberty:

    In his 2nd Essay on Civil Gov’t, Section 5, he cites “the judicious” Anglican Theologian Richard hooker, from Ecclesiastical Polity, a turn of C17 work, buy way of grounding his argument on the basic laws of human nature; leading up to the framework for liberty:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.

    This is of course directly echoed in the sentiments of the US DOI of 1776, and it is fair comment to say that the views on the equality and rights of men stated therein, have never been adequately rooted in any other soil than the one just summarised and excerpted.

    We need to pause for a moment to contrast the views that evolutionary racial etc differences exhibiting superiority and inferiority were routinely used by those thinking in a Darwinian paradigm from late C19 – mid C20, to overthrow such principles of morality and law. They stopped in C20 after a certain major historical event that shall be nameless.

    3] For those who find The God Delusion and other works of like ilk an impressive read . . .

    I suggest a read of Vox Day’s similarly popular level rebuttal. (I suspect the balance on the merits — even at this 101 level — is not quite the slam dunk that many fans of the arguments put forth by Dr Dawkins et al seem to imagine. [Caution, 1.8 Mb pdf.)

    G’day all

    GEM of TKI

  37. What strikes me about the bus campaign is that in quite recent history Atheism was promoted and enforced at the highest level by powerful governments that posed a threat to the entire world.

    Now fast forward to 2009 and the public reach of this group of promoters: weak slogans placed on buses and crowded out by far greater numbers of ads for fast-food, coca-cola, mobile phones and the latest movies.

  38. PS: Paul G raises an interesting perspective. I will link Rom 2:6 – 8, and in particular note that v 7 says: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” Such persistence in the path of the good and the truth and the right obviously entails penitence from wrong, and habitual amending of ways in light of what one knows — or, should know, cf. v. 8 — about the truth and the True.

  39. On this question of atheism let me state up front that I consider myself agnostic as defined by T H Huxley. I do not believe we have any knowledge of the Christian God nor do I believe we can have any knowledge of such. I am also a functional atheist in that, where there is a choice to be made, I assume that there is no God.

    That said, it seems to me that if there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving Universal Creator of the kind worshipped by Christians it is hard to imagine that He can be harmed in any way by posters on the sides of a few buses or even a few popular books. The fact of their continued existence suggests that He is prepared to at least tolerate lack of belief or disbelief.

    If anything, what is indicated by the vehemence of the reaction to atheist criticism is not any threat to God’s existence but rather the fragility of the individual’s own faith in that existence. If some believers were as certain as they claim then surely they would treat disbelief with the same amused tolerance as I suspect any God would.

  40. 40

    Paul, re [31]. There is much to admire about the Catholic tradition, especially its intellectual rigor, but I am not Catholic myself. I am a “mere Christian.”

  41. 41

    Seversky, re [35], you wonder why Christians take umbrage with the ads because they don’t hurt God. You suggest that perhaps those who take umbrage do so because their faith is weak. You fail to take into account another possibility.

    Hurting those whom Christ called “these little ones” is one of the gravest sins. In fact, Christ said that if anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast in the sea.

    Personally, I think the bus ads are just silly. But like all propaganda, they are intended to influence people and are especially effective on impressionable young ones. I and many others are concerned that the ads will cause these little ones to stumble.

  42. To Barry Arrington

    “Hurting those whom Christ called “these little ones” is one of the gravest sins. In fact, Christ said that if anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast in the sea.”

    I never knew Jesus condoned violence.

  43. The Yellow Shark #6 -
    “Are you admitting that you are only moral because you believe that God is watching? You don’t feel an innate desire to be good?”

    I’m currently reading an interesting philosophy book entitled “What We Can’t Not Know” in which J. Budziszewski describes the natural law (his term) for our common moral sense. We know innately that certain things are simply wrong because God has implanted them into us. Being good for the sake of being good doesn’t follow the Darwinian directive of “survival of the fittest”.

    “Dawkins has admitted numerous times that his acceptance of evolutionary theory led him to become an atheist.”

    So, is Darwinian evolution science or is it simply atheistic philosophy?

    “Now ask yourself:
    Is it a coincidence that the world’s leading ID proponent is an evangelical Christian? And ask yourself which view you adopted first, and which formed the basis for the other. (I’ve read your bio)”

    The arguments for and against ID or evolution stand on the evidence, not on the beliefs of the people espousing them.

  44. Off topic: Speaking of Vox Day in #35, he linked to this interesting article yesterday:

    “Can Evolution Reverse Itself?”
    http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/547686/

    The article appears to be reaffirming “Dollo’s Law” that once a trait is lost through degradation of the genes required, the sequence of mutations required to bring it back into existence are too improbable to occur.

  45. The more I think about it, the more I think that even the word “good” (in a moral sense) makes any sense at all within an atheistic worldview.

    “Be good for goodness’ sake?” In a materialistic world, this sentence seems completely incoherent and question begging. I cannot even comprehend what it is talking about.

  46. TheYellowShark-Are you admitting that you are only moral because you believe that God is watching? You don’t feel an innate desire to be good?

    And are you claiming you don’t feel an innate desire to be selfish?

  47. Vox rocks.

    With regard to Dollo’s Law, las week, there was a thread about IC & bicycles and unicycles.

    It is not disqualifyingly improbable for a bicycle to “evolve” to a unicycle via Darwinian mechanisms (accident plus selection)

    You are riding your Schwinn Stingray, your front wheel falls off and you do a wheelie all the way home. Everybody thinks you are cool and you choose to leave the bike like that.

    Then all your friends start doing the same thing.

    Darwinian devolution in action.

    It is disqualifyingly improbable, however, for a unicycle to “evolve” into a bicycle in a Darwinian fashion.

  48. “But we must, we must do something. ID is just too obvious. If the ignorant herd really latch onto a thing like that, anything could happen. We could be looking at a second Inquisition.”

    “I know, I know; just when we thought we had purged the creationist cancer from the academy and purified science, we find it mutating into a new and far more deadly form. Crystals, I tell them, crystals—and they laugh in my face!”

    “Thus have they treated all prophets, my friend. But it must be stopped, and it must be stopped now. You and I and Harris had a little success with the books, but I’m afraid it was not enough. The media have forgotten already. There was a time when we could have counted on them to drive up the noise level indefinitely, like they did with that brilliant Da Vinci Code. But now they all seem fixated on this ‘great depression’ silliness. As if anything else mattered, should this battle be lost.”

    “It cannot be lost. Dear God—or whoever—please do not let it be lost. But what must we do?”

    “I don’t know. I’ll tell you frankly (pass the sugar, please), I am worried. We can’t fool around this time. There’s too much at stake. We need to throw a rock through a window. We need something big. We need something so strategic, so incisive…in short, so utterly devastating that all the cretins like Dembski will crawl back quivering into their caves.”

    “I know! I’ve got it! We can put an announcement on our London busses. Everyone sees those.”

    “A rolling advertisement for atheism, as it were. Genius!”

    “Yes, we could say something really clever, like, ‘God is dead; long live King Richard!’”

    “Flattering, but I fear the ‘God is dead’ thing has been done. And while I am England’s foremost philosopher, I’m not certain that they ready to make me king.”

    “All right; try this, then. ‘God has never been seen. Why do you still believe?’”

    “Too direct. We don’t want to challenge them and make them defensive. We want to seem like their friends; like we care about their well-being. Which of course we do.”

    “Yes, yes; of course. Wait a minute—I’ve got it. How about, ‘There’s probably no God. The world’s greatest philosophers agree.’ That would be you and I, of course.”

    “I like the first part. Friendly, engaging, the common touch. But the word ‘philosopher’ undoes it. The people we’re trying to reach don’t have the respect for philosophers that you and I have. But how about this: ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’”

    “Beautiful! Why Richard, that’s poetry. Invite them to entertain the possibility, and then seal it with a promise. Now all we need do is raise a little money.”

    “That shouldn’t be hard. We could probably get enough just from our colleagues at university.”

    “So we have a plan, and a devastating one, if I may say so. Let’s see what the hoi polloi have to say about this.”

    “Danny, you are more precious to me than woman. This certainly is a beautiful friendship we share.”

  49. 49

    “Eastern ethics do not come from on high.”

    How do you know?

    (without design, there are no Eastern ethics)

  50. 50

    And are you claiming you don’t feel an innate desire to be selfish?

    Not denying that at all. But I live a decent life. I don’t commit any crimes. I don’t think I really commit any Christian “sins” either, with the exceptions of:
    1) blasphemy
    2) heresy
    3) looking at a woman with “lust in my heart”

    (And each one of those is a victimless crime, so I fail to see how they are *ethical* violations in any way.)

    So in my case, my innate desire to be good outweighs my innate desire to be selfish, and I would guess that this is the reason that most–if not all–people who are good are good. Sometimes I make mistakes, just like anyone else, but when I do I apologize and try not to make the same mistake again.

    Fear of God’s reprisal is not even a remote consideration in my evaluation of ethics.

  51. Barry Arrington @ 40

    Seversky, re [35], you wonder why Christians take umbrage with the ads because they don’t hurt God. You suggest that perhaps those who take umbrage do so because their faith is weak. You fail to take into account another possibility.

    Hurting those whom Christ called “these little ones” is one of the gravest sins. In fact, Christ said that if anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast in the sea.

    I can see that as an objection from a Christian perspective although an atheist would no doubt reply that teaching children what are, from an atheist perspective, myths is not good for them either.

    My own view is that the posters are likely to be harmless either way. The effect any poster might have on the thinking of a child is going to be insignificant compared to the daily teachings and examples of their parents.

  52. 52

    So, is Darwinian evolution science or is it simply atheistic philosophy?

    Science. Note that in the case of Dawkins–as with every single atheist biologist I know–acceptance of evolutionary theory led to acceptance of atheism, not the other way around.

    The same cannot be said of ID proponents. ID proponents generally argue for ID from pre-existing religious beliefs.

    The arguments for and against ID or evolution stand on the evidence, not on the beliefs of the people espousing them.

    Indeed. But you should probably direct your comment to Dembski, as I was replying to an argument that *he* made.

  53. Seversky wrote:

    That said, it seems to me that if there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving Universal Creator of the kind worshipped by Christians it is hard to imagine that He can be harmed in any way by posters on the sides of a few buses or even a few popular books. The fact of their continued existence suggests that He is prepared to at least tolerate lack of belief or disbelief.

    Toleration is not approval. What you perceive as toleration is divine patience.

    First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.

    They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

    [...]

    But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

    The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

    Sal Gal wrote:

    I believe that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is indeed the Golden Rule. But it happens that Confucius said it first.

    If you examine the Confucius quote closely (provided the translation is correct, and I believe it is since I’ve seen it elsewhere), it’s not exactly what Jesus said – there is a subtle but crucial difference.

    Confucius in essence said “Do not …” where Jesus said “Do …” This makes the Confucius quote more akin to the Ten Commandments – mostly a code of negative liberties – than to what Jesus said – a description of positive liberty.

    And allanius above, LOL! Good work there.

  54. Barry (#39),

    Sorry, I had you mixed up with someone else. Not for the first time. I’m glad I added “IIRC”, as obviously I didn’t.

  55. TheYellowShark:
    You say “then he or she could not have “created” anything, as “create” logically supposes a TIMEFRAME in which a non-extant object becomes extant at some later TIME.”
    This statement assumes there is only one possible timeframe. And so is thus moot as one must assume a time transcendent being has his own timeframe or something else completely beyond our ability to fathom as time bound agents.

    Even the multiverse theories assume a different timeframe for each universe. Any God being would not require the timeframe of any physical universe to create.

    Any supreme being residing outside of ‘normal’ timeframes (duration and succession) yet able to transcend such would have no problem with creating from within his own unique timeframe.

    Personally I’ve always had a problem with the logical consequences of the BB etc., theories claiming that time itself was created along with our universe at the BB.

    There is another problem with your logic here though; It assumes the universe was indeed created with time (had a specific beginning) – best estimates give around 14.5 billion years ago under BB theory.

    But atheists cannot not accept a created universe at all. So when the atheist claims as per your timeframe logic,he is intrinsically contradicting himself … yet again.

    So we again see that Voltaire at least had atheists pegged right, whatever else he got wrong, when he noted, “The atheists are for the most part imprudent and misguided scholars who reason badly who, not being able to understand the Creation, the origin of evil, and other difficulties, have recourse to the hypothesis the eternity of things and of inevitability.”

  56. BarryA and Upright BiPed,

    I try to keep the opening article in mind when I comment, and assume that others are doing the same. Dembski wrote,

    (2) In times past the state was concerned that people believe in God because they saw faith as curbing human wickedness (God holds us accountable for our actions and will see that in the end justice is served–so watch what you do). Wouldn’t it therefore be more honest for the atheists to put up the slogan: “There probably is no God. Now watch your back because no one else is.”

    I thought my statement that “Eastern ethics do not come from on high” would be read in context. The word “ethics” is short for “ethical theory,” Barry. Have you never encountered, say, Plato’s Ethics? Confucius is regarded as a humanist, and his ethical theory is somewhat like what is known as a virtue theory in Western thought. Confucian ethics stands in contrast to consequentialist ethics.

    Dembski seems to think that only a consequentialist ethics is socially effective. If he pulls an old philosophy textbook off the shelf, he may confirm that virtue theory was dominant through medieval times. I would be very much interested in seeing his account of how people in Christian societies had to watch their backs until the Sixteenth Century or so, and how things got much better after that.

    For many Christians, consequentialism manifests in physical violence against children. Barry, do you think Jesus would have struck “these little ones” to make them good? I believe that the most important form of human learning is modeling. My father gave me beatings, and I struggle to suppress the violence in me. I succeeded in suppressing it in rearing my son — little punishment, and absolutely no corporal punishment — and now he does not struggle against a violent nature. He is intrinsically a gentle person, and he treats other people well.

    By the way, I did establish many consequences for my son — positive ones. And there are positive psychological and spiritual consequences in practicing the Golden Rule. I refuse to live in Rick Toesw’s hell-on-earth: “I’ll be switched if I’m going to concern myself with the good of nameless others rather than my own enjoyment, when there’s no ultimate meaning to it anyway.”

  57. Read…

    “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God”

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t.....400568.ece

  58. jstanley01 @ #4

    Funny. I was thinking something along those lines. The verbiage they chose for the buses may actually backfire on them.

    “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life.”

    Some may see this as too much uncertainty. And it sounds more like…”Live as if there’s not a God to judge your life – even though we’re not actually certain about that.”

    Hey! Eat this yummy looking yellow frog. It’s probably not poisonous.

  59. —-”Sal Gal: “By the way, I did establish many consequences for my son — positive ones. And there are positive psychological and spiritual consequences in practicing the Golden Rule.”

    You are right up to a point. Both Plato and Aristotle believed that, at some level, virtue is its own reward. For them, the good life was inseparable from good conduct. In that context, to follow the natural moral law is to go a long way toward living the good life. From a psychological point of view, this makes perfect sense. The most miserable people in the world are those who are slaves to their own bad habits.

    There is, however, the big problem of motivation and the problem of facing up to what the natural moral law really entails. Very few people do, in fact, love their neighbor as themselves because the price is very high. Most will not even bother to try unless they understand that they will someday be judged according to that standard. To be a truly good person requires enormous discipline, sacrifice, and GROWTH. In the context of “the fall,” we fail more than we succeed. As Chesterton pointed out, we don’t need to wonder of the the teaching about “original sin” is true. It proves itself every day in the streets.

    Further, as crandaddy pointed out, Confucius’ exhortation to “do no harm,” does not rise to Christ’s standard of self-secrificial love. Much less does it exhort us to “love our enemies.” The world is full of people who think they are good because they don’t commit murder or grand theft. In fact, the more convinced a person is that he is a good person, the more likely it is that he is anything but that. The world’s best people have grave doubts about their own goodness because they understand the difference between where they are and where they ought to be.

  60. JGuy @53

    As the campaign progresses, they may decide that they need some variety in their wording. So in the spirit of cooperation, I thought I’d offer a couple or two suggestions along the same lines:

    “Nothing means anything, so don’t worry, be happy!”

    “There is no God who loves you, but at least your dog still does!”

    “Breathe in and look at the sunset. Aren’t accidents are WONDERFUL!”

    “No heaven, no hell, this droning in my ears is swell!”

    “Existence is futile, so have a nice day!”

    “Why the long face? Remember, when you die you’re dead forever!”

    And my favorite:

    “Look at the bright side! Wait a minute, there is no bright side!”

  61. jstanley01 @ 60

    haha… How about this suggestion for any new sign verbiage:

    “Considering that we are all chemical reactions. I don’t know why I’m compelled so passionately to purchase this advertising space.”

    :P

  62. The same cannot be said of ID proponents. ID proponents generally argue for ID from pre-existing religious beliefs.

    What about religious people who were Darwinists first and ID proponents later based upon the evidence?

  63. angryoldfatman (53):

    I agree that, taking socio-political context into account, positive liberty was a large part of Jesus’ message. Jesus told the people who were “impure” under Judaic law that their Father loved them, and that He forgave them. He did not manipulate them with threats of damnation. That was the work of saints.

  64. mohammed.husain @ 62

    How do you think Atheism and Darwinism have contributed to the blatant disregard for human life on the part of the Israelis in their massacre of Palestinians in Gaza?

    My impression is that most Israelis would consider it as offensive to be called atheist as would most Americans or most Muslims. This conflict is just the modern political form of much deeper and more ancient hatreds.

    Is there any doubt that Islamic opinion will not be satisfied until the Israeli state and people are wiped from the face of the map?

  65. StephenB (59):

    I agree with most of what you say, though the Doctrine of Original Sin (which is, of course, due to Augustine, and not Jesus) is of no use to me.

    Very few people do, in fact, love their neighbor as themselves because the price is very high.

    No one loves out of fear (“accountability” in the opening article). Certainly no one loves his enemy out of fear of God. And nowhere does Jesus teach anything like that. I have as big issues with theologians who make bizarre dogma out of simple truths as I do with scientists who overvalue science.

    Perhaps you and others got the impression that I was equating Jesus and Confucius. I simply hate the notion that ethical behavior comes from fear of God. The fear is entirely unnecessary, in my opinion, and I believe that Jesus meant to set us free of that. Much of his message was that our Father in Heaven loves us, and has forgiven us, and wants us to love another as He love us.

  66. P.S.–”No harm” is Gautama Buddha, not Confucius.

  67. 67

    “Is there any doubt that Islamic opinion will not be satisfied until the Israeli state and people are wiped from the face of the map?”

    Never mind that this is blatantly false (look up Norman Finklestein (reputable Jewish academic) for the numerous Arab proposals for peace (usually include 1967 borders and a negotiation of the Arab right of return), and that the Israeli regime is an apartheid state and that for years and years never recognized the existence of the Palestinian people.

    Aren’t you in a sense justifying violence and terrorism? How many more civialians, women and children will it take for you to recognize it as such. Certainly most of the world recognizes it this way. If you rationalize terrorism, which is no doubt what this is, then are you not sympathetic and complicit in it?

  68. 68

    btw- it was none other than jimmy carter who recognized the israeli regime as apartheid, and likened it to old south africa. This is our former president speaking.

  69. I would suggest that there are two points we should bear in mind when discussing morality or ethics in the context of the debate over ID and evolution.

    The first should be uncontroversial in that a scientific theory is intended to be descriptive not prescriptive. It attempts to explain the way the Universe – or, at least, some aspect of it – is rather than how we think it should be. If it is true, it remains true regardless of its implications and that holds for ID as much as for evolution. Even if that theory had been co-opted to provide support for a movement like eugenics – which most here, including myself, find abhorrent – it would make no difference to how true it is.

    The second point is that we should address the problem of the Euthyphro Dilemma. Is something ‘good’ only because God says it is or can something be intrinsically ‘good’ regardless of what God or anyone else says?

    If something is only ‘good’ because God says it is then what guarantee do we have that His moral injunctions are not just the whims of a capricious being, given that we have examples from the Old Testament of His ordering or, at least, endorsing acts that today we would consider atrocities? If, on the other hand, things can be ‘good’ in and of themselves then what is to prevent us discovering them for ourselves?

    In addition, if we assume, as I believe most Christians do, that God is a rational being and that his moral prescriptions are the outcome of a process of reasoning then, again, what is to prevent us – as beings created in His image and endowed by Him with the ability to reason – from working out what is good and bad, right and wrong for ourselves?

    Quite obviously people can and do behave very badly although I believe that, given a chance, most people would ‘do the right thing’. But the fact that some people behave in antisocial ways is not an argument against the theory of evolution. It does not claim that natural selection will lead to perfect or even optimal solutions just those that are good enough to be better than any alternatives. Equally, the facts that our prisons are filled with offenders who identify themselves as Christian or that a number of prominent pastors have been found not living up to the ideals they proclaim, do not in any way undermine the moral values advocated in the Bible.

    If anything, our all-too-human failures should teach us all humility and charity, whether believer or atheist. Whatever, if anything, may lie after death, we are fragile and ephemeral beings and we owe it to ourselves to make the best of what fleeting time we are allowed in this form.

  70. The Yellow Shark:
    “The same cannot be said of ID proponents. ID proponents generally argue for ID from pre-existing religious beliefs.”

    Including those who are agnostic?

  71. For more on the Aussie atheist bus campaign see

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/nat.....99169.html

  72. Seversky wrote:

    Whatever, if anything, may lie after death, we are fragile and ephemeral beings and we owe it to ourselves to make the best of what fleeting time we are allowed in this form.

    What is “best”? To suffer for others? Especially when so few will appreciate it? Of course not.

    If by “best” you mean pleasure, then why not spend your days in a chemically induced stupor, in hedonistic carnal activities, or both? Don’t these things feel good?

    Oh I know, such a person would be a burden on others. Well, so what. You can’t feel the feelings of those other people anyway. If they don’t want to feel good and want to suffer on your account, why should that impede you? Besides, their desire to suffer is indicative of a sickness, isn’t it? Who would inflict pain and suffering on themselves unless they were sick? Particularly if the suffering involves trying to stop someone else from feeling good?

    But what if the guy/girl having fun is shortening his/her life by engaging in the pleasurable activity? Well, so what. They’re going to die anyway. They are fragile and ephemeral beings and they owe it to themselves to make the best of what fleeting time they are allowed in this form.

    There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

  73. Patrick:

    What about religious people who were Darwinists first and ID proponents later based upon the evidence?

    I gave myself as one such example. I was not only a Darwinist but the atheistic equivalent of Saul of Tarsus, a militant atheist who delighted in attempting to destroy the faith of Christians — a Richard Dawkins clone. It all came crashing down during a period of time in 1994 at age 43, and I would have to write a book about it. One factor in the crash was discovering that Darwinian theory — the creation story of my former religion of atheism — in its grand claims about explaining all of life, was a Himalayan pile of nonsense that had clearly been perpetuated and sold to me despite the evidence of modern molecular biology, information theory, and simple probabilistic mathematical analysis that I learned in seventh grade.

    Since my Damascus Road experience I have discovered an entirely new world, especially through my involvement in Calvary Chapel ministries. It is a world in which lives, families, marriages, children, and communities are healed and restored. My old world of atheistic nihilism produced the exact opposite.

    I will never go back.

  74. Interesting that some of my posts have been deleted.

    Yeah, it’s almost like something out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or something. Whoa. Spooky.

    Next thing you know you’ll be getting charged interest on a car loan.

    And what’s with bringing up Jimmy Carter? You waxing nostalgic about taking over an embassy?

  75. 75

    …despite the evidence of modern molecular biology, information theory, and simple probabilistic mathematical analysis that I learned in seventh grade.

    Now this I’m anxious to hear about.

    …My old world of atheistic nihilism produced the exact opposite…

    Sounds like you were doing it wrong.

  76. 76

    Including those who are agnostic?

    I already submitted a comment that addressed this point (with regards to Berlinski in particular) but it looks like it didn’t get through the filter.

  77. Christianity is supposed to teach the love of one’s enemy.

    OK Mohammed, why don’t you try to show a little Christianity yourself and see the point of Israel?

    If Mexico were allowing rockets to be fired from its territory to kill U.S. kids, I’d support an invasion wouldn’t you?

  78. —-Sal Gal: “I simply hate the notion that ethical behavior comes from fear of God. The fear is entirely unnecessary, in my opinion, and I believe that Jesus meant to set us free of that. Much of his message was that our Father in Heaven loves us, and has forgiven us, and wants us to love another as He love us.”

    Once again, there is something to what you say. The best kind of love is exactly as you describe it—spontaneous and free of fear. Sometimes, God (or a loving parent) can, indeed, inspire that kind of behavior by providing a loving example and supplying positive reinforcement. The problem is that it doesn’t always work. Some children, even those who have been loved from birth, will flirt with dangerous drugs and adopt self-destructive behavior patters. The loving parent, having failed with other options, will warn the child about what lies ahead unless changes are made. Refusing to issue that warning is the same as refusing to love. Thus, the parent (and God) uses fear in its proper setting. [“If you don’t stop living that way, you will destroy yourself” [in this life and the next].

    Further, it is easy to delude one’s self about the extent to which he actually practices love. Men can fool themselves into thinking that they love their women even as they send them off to get an abortion. Donors may think their tax-sheltered contributions to charitable organizations compensate for their vicious habit of slander and calumny. Politicians often believe that they are serving the public even though they are simply pampering their own egos. Television preachers can think they are spreading the Gospel when they are simply using their public speaking talents to further their career.

    Further still, this world does not usually reward “agape” type love. Oh yes, it rewards the soft, feel-good sentiment that causes the women in Oprah Winfrey’s audience to cry crocodile tears. Real love, however, is inseparable from sacrifice and is often persecuted—like the non-violent pro-lifers who get arrested for protesting the killing of unborn children– like qualified, yet unelectable statesmen who must stand aside and watch double-talking empty suits run the government—like the Old and New Testament prophets who practiced heroic virtue and experienced a martyrs death. Real goodness is inseparable from the kind of courage, humility, and wisdom that thinks beyond this life. If our short stay here is all there is, then there is no such thing as goodness, only survival. If we don’t live forever, then all goodness is wasted, all hope is misguided, and every promise is a cruel joke.

  79. 79

    StephenB (78) “If we don’t live forever, then all goodness is wasted, all hope is misguided, and every promise is a cruel joke.”

    I can see you have a great deal invested in your belief that you will “live forever.” When you look back on the Decent of Man… where do you think the cut off for those who “live forever” would be drawn?

  80. Stephen:

    Well said!

    And, it seems to me that since the issue of origins and of God are jointly at stake here, Job 38:1 – 7 has some very relevant things to say to us by way of a counsel of humility on the limits of our knowledge of the remote past:

    1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:

    2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?

    3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.

    4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.

    5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?

    6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone- 7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels [a] shouted for joy? [HT: Apollos]

    In short, we would be wise to recognise that the remote past was not observed by human eyes, nor is it directly observable. So, our scientifically informed reconstructions of the past are provisional explanatory models, and are not to be confused with the reality of the past itself. (The parable of Plato’s Cave [NB: link is to a v. well done NZ page] is relevantly parallel on how worldviews and communities can go utterly astray.)

    A comparison with Rom 1: esp. 18 – 22 & 28 – 32 is therefore sobering.

    GEM of TKI

    _________

    PS: Re the Arab-Israeli side-track issue raised by MH,

    . . . I suggest, with all respect, that there is a whole other side to the story [e.g. the notorious "three no's" of Khartoum post June 1967 . . . ], and that the actual behaviour of Mexico raised above [which does have relevantly parallel historical claims] is an excellent contrast to the double war crime of deliberate rocketing of civilians and hiding behind other civilians used as human shields. (Pardon, Patrick, but I think the other side at least needs to be linked.)

  81. PPS: Oops, South African . . .

  82. Sal Gal,

    Dembski seems to think that only a consequentialist ethics is socially effective. If he pulls an old philosophy textbook off the shelf, he may confirm that virtue theory was dominant through medieval times. I would be very much interested in seeing his account of how people in Christian societies had to watch their backs until the Sixteenth Century or so, and how things got much better after that.

    How very consequentialist of you! :-)

    The fact of the matter is that if you convince people that they’ll burn in hell for eternity if they don’t act right, they’ll fall in line with whatever social order is required. Such a doctrine may be theoretically amiss, or its proselytization may be illicitly wrought. Nevertheless, it effects desired consequences.

    Now I’m not a consequentialist, but I can consider two consequences and determine that one would be more favorable than the other.

  83. Interesting that the article reads “enjoy your life” but the sign on the bus reads “get on with your life”.

    These carry quite different meanings.

  84. 84

    Probably? PROBABLY?! I thought atheists were absolutely certain there is no God? They’re not hedging their bets are they? What a bunch of losers.

  85. 85

    (3) Is it a coincidence that the world’s leading atheist is also a pathological Darwinist?

    Of course not. See here: Inbred Science

  86. “Probably”

    According to an article today in Canada’s Globe & Mail by Elizabeth Renzetti, the “probably” was

    required by the regulatory body that looks after Britain’s bus advertising, which insisted the slogan needed to acknowledge “a grey area” with regard to the presence of the Almighty.”

    This has caused no little consternation among the athiest faithful, who rightly see it a waffling.

  87. angryoldfatman @ 72

    What is “best”? To suffer for others? Especially when so few will appreciate it? Of course not.

    If by “best” you mean pleasure, then why not spend your days in a chemically induced stupor, in hedonistic carnal activities, or both? Don’t these things feel good?

    I take my cue on the question of personal freedom from J S Mill’s On Liberty. I believe citizens should be free do do whatever they choose up to the point at which such action harms the person, property and rights of others. Deciding what constitutes ‘harm’ in this context is, of course, the difficult question.

    If this life is all there is then it is for each individual to decide what is best for them. If they want to smoke, drink, do drugs, drive fast cars, engage in extreme sports, write poetry, play videogames or watch soaps on TV then it is for them to decide provided that, by so doing, they are not infringing on the right of others to do the same.

  88. I wish someone would run a counter campaign made of of quotes of scientists who were contemporaneous with Darwin:

    “Do not let yourself be tainted with a barren skepticism.” –Louis Pasteur

    “Happy is he who bears a god within.” –Louis Pasteur

    “The greatest disorder of the mind is to let will direct it.” –Louis Pasteur

    “Overwhelming strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie around us.” –Lord Kelvin

    (Here’s one for Dembski “Mathematics is the only good metaphysics.”–Lord Kelvin

    “The more thoroughly I conduct scientific research, the more I believe that science excludes atheism.” — Lord Kelvin

    “The atheistic idea is so nonsensical that I do not see how I can put it in words.” [Source] — Lord Kelvin

    “Do not be afraid of being free thinkers. If you think strongly enough you will be forced by science to the belief in God, which is the foundation of all religion. You will find science not antagonistic but helpful to religion.” — Lord Kelvin

    And therefore, brethren, we ought to value the privilege of knowing God’s truth far beyond anything we can have in this world. The more we see the perfection of God’s law fulfilled in Christ, the more we ought to thank God for His unspeakable gift. — Michael Faraday

    I have the capacity of being more wicked than any example that man could set me, and that if I escape, it is only by God’s grace helping me to get rid of myself, partially in science, more completely in society, — James Clerk Maxwell

    “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.”
    –James Clerk Maxwell

    And since he’s considered the father of science, albeit not contemporary with Darwn:

    For none deny, there is a God, but those, for whom it maketh that there were no God. It appeareth in nothing more, that atheism is rather in the lip, than in the heart of man, than by this; that atheists will ever be talking of that their opinion, as if they fainted in it, within themselves, and would be glad to be strengthened, by the consent of others. Nay more, you shall have atheists strive to get disciples, as it fareth with other sects. –Francis Bacon

    And we can probably dig up some from Georges Lemaitre and Gregor Mendel who were sincere and serious Catholic priests

  89. GilDodgen @ 73

    I will never go back.

    StephenB @ 78

    If our short stay here is all there is, then there is no such thing as goodness, only survival. If we don’t live forever, then all goodness is wasted, all hope is misguided, and every promise is a cruel joke.

    Many people feel as you do and it is not hard for anyone with imagination to see why. If there is no God, if Nature is pitilessly indifferent to our existence, if we are just an accidental outcome of a purposeless Universe then we are faced with a stark, bleak, utterly hopeless and terrifying prospect. Agnostics and atheists who claim to be unmoved by contemplation of their own personal annihilation are just not doing it right.

    The problem is the more we learn about the Universe the more it looks as if it was not created for our benefit. In fact, it looks like an incredibly dangerous place to be and we are lucky to have got as far as we have.

    Given the above, it is completely understandable that people simply reject the possibility of a purposeless existence and turn to faiths that offer them warmth, comfort and the prospect of some sort of continued existence after physical death for themselves and their loved ones. Even if they are wrong, what does it matter if it makes life here more tolerable?

    In a sense, if there is no Creator and no purpose then it does not matter to us personally. What makes a difference to us during the brief span of our personal existence is all that counts. Nonetheless, there may be a truth beyond that: the nature of a universe whose truth does not depend on whether we find it acceptable but is just the way it is.

  90. Sal Gal @24

    I believe that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is indeed the Golden Rule. But it happens that Confucius said it first.

    Hummm.

    According to tradition, Confucius was born in 551 BC.

    According to tradition, the Torah of Moses was given to Israel between 1400-1200 BC, which contains Leviticus 19:18.

    “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    As a Torah-faithful Jew, Jesus in the first century reiterated this verse as one of the two greatest commandments. The other is from Deuteronomy 6:5:

    “Here O Israel, YHWH is our God, YHWH only.”

    You believe in the actual historicity of Confucius?
    I believe in the actual historicity of Moses, and in both of the two greatest commandments.

    In any case, as others have said above, a universal awareness of what is good and bad human moral behavior does not in the slightest detract from any special revelation of God.

  91. Seversky:

    The problem is the more we learn about the Universe the more it looks as if it was not created for our benefit. In fact, it looks like an incredibly dangerous place to be and we are lucky to have got as far as we have.

    Lucky indeed! And lucky that life formed by itself when everything we know about math and chemistry and geology say its impossible (though many toil to fill the “gap” that keeps getting bigger).

    And lucky that we live on particularly beneficial world on a luckily compatible star in a fortunately quiet backwater of the galaxy.

    And lucky that the remarkably fortuitous arrangement of our neurons managed to produce a conscious state capable of realizing just how big a crap shoot it all is!

    That just about wraps it up for God; why if there was a God, nothing at all would appear to be lucky about our existence!

  92. The problem is the more we learn about the Universe the more it looks as if it was not created for our benefit.

    The more we learn about the universe the more it seems it was fine-tuned for our existence.

  93. 93

    Seversky:”The problem is the more we learn about the Universe the more it looks as if it was not created for our benefit. In fact, it looks like an incredibly dangerous place to be and we are lucky to have got as far as we have.”

    Perhaps the reason the universe (creation) “looks” so bad is the entrance of sin, which Paul suggests when he writes that through sin, all of creation groans. Some of the things we see … such as viruses, colliding galaxies, the appearance of bad design … could be the manifestation of the degradation of creation since the entrance of sin.

    Yet as a former atheist who later rejected it because of the shortcomings of the evolution creation myth, it appears to me the universe, even in its perfect sense, must be upheld by God. This is clearly seen that in a perfect world, Adam and Eve had to eat special food to maintain their immortal nature. When they sinned, that food was no longer made available to them, and as a result, they started to die. (As a Bible-believing Christian, I certainly believe a 6-day creation event occurred … but I also believe humans don’t have souls. The idea of some bodiless spirit that lives on eternally after its body-host dies is as much a myth to me as it is to you. It is also a myth with no place in the Bible … but that’s another argument.)

    I agree that this particular viewpoint opens up some difficult ideas about the nature of God. I only say this to suggest that at least one creation myth (The Bible’s) would have an answer to those who challenge the Intelligent Design movement based on the fact they would have done things differently as God. (Perhaps if Mormonism is true, they will get that chance!)

  94. —–Seversky: “In a sense, if there is no Creator and no purpose then it does not matter to us personally. What makes a difference to us during the brief span of our personal existence is all that counts. Nonetheless, there may be a truth beyond that: the nature of a universe whose truth does not depend on whether we find it acceptable but is just the way it is.”

    Yes, that seems to be the substance of the debate. I have always believed that next to theism, existentialism is next in line as the most respectable intellectual position. Other coping strategies such as the positive thinking that closes its eyes, the gutsy stoicism that bears up under all, the reckless nihilism that obsesses over pleasure, the aggressive Darwinism that persecutes truth, or the trendy agnosticism that poses as open-mindedness—none of these approaches meet the intellectual challenge.

    If there is no God and no afterlife, there is no way to transform that gruesome fact into a rosy picture, and there is no way to make the best of an impossible situation. It is far better, in my judgment, to lay it on the line just as Sartre does. Acknowledge that the universe is absurd, and stop all this silly business about materialist “ethics” or arbitrary standards of goodness. If the universe is absurd, then despair really is the only reasonable response.

    Absent any God or purpose, we are forced to confront Camut’s point: The fundamental philosophical question is whether or not to commit suicide. I think the worlds worst advice consists in the phrase, “get it while you can,” or “enjoy it while its here.” If you can’t keep it, it is totally worthless. The good news is that the case for existentialism is not nearly as compelling as the case for God, which brings us to the real substance of the matter: If there is a world without end on the other side, then preparing for it takes logical precedence over enjoying this life, which most definitely will end.

  95. 95

    Probably? PROBABLY?! I thought atheists were absolutely certain there is no God? They’re not hedging their bets are they? What a bunch of losers.

    Either this is sarcasm or you know absolutely nothing about the subject.

    Besides, apparently the advertising board requested that they tone it down from the original statement, which was much stronger.

  96. I’d disagree that the universe ‘looks bad’, and certainly that any supposed bad features makes it look undesigned. The very comprehensibility of the universe, the rationality seen in evolution (sans the Darwinian metaphysical baggage) and cosmology, etc, all point increasingly towards design and the primacy of mind.

    Though I would agree with StephenB to a point. Once someone has intellectually ruled out any consideration of God, most of the intellectual goals that have driven so many fall on the spot. What remains is absurdity, so long as you’re consistent. And the ample evidence of inconsistency on that subject only demonstrates that Pascal’s Wager is alive and well.

  97. To add to what nullasalus just wrote, how can you determine a design is bad or good anyway without some absolute and transcendent standard of bad or good. Seems that without this absolute moral standard, the best a person can say is “I don’t like it.” This is a far cry from an argument against design, much less a scientific argument.

    Furthermore, just because something breaks doesn’t mean it wasn’t designed … take a fuse for example. Of course, this can lead to psychoanalyzing the designer (assuming a basic commonality among all intelligence) based on his designs, however this doesn’t lead to any argument against design. Even with the psychoanalyzing, to accuse the designer of “bad” design, as I just mentioned above, one would need to appeal to an absolute standard from which to judge all designer’s intentions — assuming that we indeed do have evidence of the designer’s intentions and full plan.

  98. Seversky et. al.,

    I’ve lost interest in posting when I’m one of the few on this forum who uses his real name. Google Gil Dodgen or GilDodgen. I accept the vitriol but will not be an anonymous Internet coward.

    Give your real name or admit you’re a coward. Put up or shut up.

  99. 99

    “Either this is sarcasm or you know absolutely nothing about the subject”.

    Oh dear! Did I hurt your feelings?

    Mate I’ll bow to your superior knowledge and intellect. Now does that make you happy?

    Btw at least I don’t hide behind a false name or are you indeed a yellow shark?

  100. 100

    Give your real name or admit you’re a coward. Put up or shut up.

    I will give my real name when “Baylor Bear” gives his/hers.

  101. 101

    [tribune7] “And we can probably dig up some from Georges Lemaitre and Gregor Mendel who were sincere and serious Catholic priests”

    You can get loads of quotes from the biography of Sir William Rowan Hamilton (who was a scrupulously observant anglican.) The preface to Euler’s arithmetic testifies that Euler considered atheists “among the most pernicious enemies of man.” Probably tons of quotes in Tait & Balfour’s “The Unseen Universe.” Not to mention Sir Oliver Lodge’s book contra Haeckel.

  102. Gil Dodgen @ 98

    Seversky et. al.,

    I’ve lost interest in posting when I’m one of the few on this forum who uses his real name. Google Gil Dodgen or GilDodgen. I accept the vitriol but will not be an anonymous Internet coward.

    Give your real name or admit you’re a coward. Put up or shut up.

    I was not aware that anything I had written could be described as vitriolic. It was not my intention and I would assume that the moderators would screen out anything that stepped over the mark.

    As for posting under an alias, that is a common practice on the Internet – I note that a number of regular contributors to Uncommon Descent do it. I would also argue that it serves a useful purpose in that the attention of other contributors is focussed on the content of the post rather than the author.

  103. StephenB @ 94

    Absent any God or purpose, we are forced to confront Camut’s point: The fundamental philosophical question is whether or not to commit suicide. I think the worlds worst advice consists in the phrase, “get it while you can,” or “enjoy it while its here.” If you can’t keep it, it is totally worthless.

    From the little I know of them, the French existentialists like Sartre and Camus were a depressing bunch. I think they missed the point, though. The fact that we only have a short time to enjoy the pleasant things that this world has to offer doesn’t make them any the less pleasurable. If anything, it should prompt us to value them even more highly because our access to them is apparently so limited. Isn’t it significant that so many people who survive a very close brush with death attest that they now relish every additional day of life that is allowed to them?

  104. GilDodgen wrote “My old world of atheistic nihilism did the exact opposite.”

    To which TheYellowShark responded, “Sounds like you were doing it wrong.”

    Uh, exactly how does one *do* atheistic nihilism correctly, then?

    The dictionary definition of “nihilism” is “an extreme form of skepticism that denies all existence”; “a doctrine holding that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.”

    TheYellowShark -

    Please explain to me how teaching your kids that they can do anything they want (since values are baseless) and they won’t be judged for it (at least not at home) would contribute to a happy family life.

    Please explain to me how teaching anyone that nothing can truly be known would lead to advancement in any field of science. If nothing can be known, what’s the point of performing experiements? Exploration? Writing peer-revewed papers?

    TheYellowShark also wrote: “Either this is sarcasm or you know absolutely nothing about the subject.”

    Atheism is defined as “disbelief in or *denial of* the existence of god or gods.” (emphasis mine). Richard Dawkins denies the existence of God. So does Sam Harris, Victor Stenger, Daniel Dennett, and probably a few others I missed.

  105. Seversky:
    I was not aware that anything I had written could be described as vitriolic.

    Please accept my apologies for not making my point clear. I was not referring to your vitriol, but that to which I have been subjected over the last several years on the Internet as a result of being an ID apologist and making my name public. I’ve been called every name in the book, the most common being IDiot.

    Click here for just one such example of the vitriol to which I’ve been subjected. I could give you hundreds of more examples.

  106. GilDodgen:I hope you and no one else here at this site reading me take too personally what I say.I just see things differently than many and giving my view in apoetic fashion.I love debating just for the brain exercise as well as to find out if I am in this world or another travelling in time.The only way I know that I am back home here is usually when someone lets me know that I am talking in a language they don`t understand. I hope you and all others lets me know.I am rude sometimes not knowingly so.Please tell me when also.You do have one positive that is easy to detect.You are FAMOUS with alot of loyal followers coming here to see why you are so famous.YOU`ll soon be a HOLLYWOOD celebrity if your fan base keeps growing.Even negatives turn out to be positives when time allows it to. Mathematics prooves this as truth> -5x-3=15 It is positive truth.Wish you the best.You are not out of order with this site or you wouldn`t be allowed to post,would you? Don`t most writers wish to be famous?You must be giving them their $.02 worth.They keep coming back for more.Looks like there is alot of them out there who don`t dare to debate you.Maybe they are afraid that they might lose debating.That would make you the winner and you might not even know it.I`m only a nubee here on the site.I`m usually the one calling myself the crazy,stupid idiot sometimes.I was kind of hoping others would believe that I am sometimes and tell me so.Atleast I would know that I am alive and only a below normal human.Just have fun.

  107. crandaddy:

    The fact of the matter is that if you convince people that they’ll burn in hell for eternity if they don’t act right, they’ll fall in line with whatever social order is required. Such a doctrine may be theoretically amiss, or its proselytization may be illicitly wrought. Nevertheless, it effects desired consequences.

    No argument from me on this. But it deserves consideration that there are Buddhist societies in which people strive to follow the Eightfold Noble Way because they hope to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. I have seen Nirvana described as an ember burning out.

    Now I’m not a consequentialist, but I can consider two consequences and determine that one would be more favorable than the other.

    Darling you gotta let me know… ;)

  108. P.S.–Was the finale chance or necessity?

  109. Dr. Time

    Every few sentences hit the enter key and your posts will be more readable. Also, avoid using all caps.

    And speaking for myself, I don’t like to argue for the sake of argument.

  110. —-seversky: “From the little I know of them, the French existentialists like Sartre and Camus were a depressing bunch. I think they missed the point, though. The fact that we only have a short time to enjoy the pleasant things that this world has to offer doesn’t make them any the less pleasurable. If anything, it should prompt us to value them even more highly because our access to them is apparently so limited. Isn’t it significant that so many people who survive a very close brush with death attest that they now relish every additional day of life that is allowed to them?”

    Sartre and Camut were not miserable because of their disposition. They brooded because they were intelligent enough to know the difference between subjective and objective value. A man can give a woman a piece of glass and tell her that it is a diamond. For a while, she will place subjective value on the crystal and that will be enough. Sooner or later, though, she will come to realize that is has no objective value and she will resent it.

    Atheists, none of whom believe in objective truth may, nevertheless, place a subjective value on life. So much so, that they are likely to obsess over temporary things like pleasure, power, and fame. Indeed, they will almost always make little gods out of those things. Disbelieving in all objective value, they will focus on the subjective and make the best of the present moment.

    The truly intelligent atheist, however, is miserable because he refuses to delude himself about the implications of his belief system. He understands that everything he cares about will either die, get lost, or be forgotten. Even if he does somehow leave to his children something that “appears” to be valuable, he realizes that it (and they) will return to dust. It will be as if they had never lived at all. Nothing will have any lasting value including any sense of purpose that he may try to create for himself. If life has no meaning, then there is no way to change that fact by pretending to invent one. To try is to play a fools game.

    Sarte and Camut were intelligent enough to understand that. That is why they were miserable and that is why Camut pointed out that the debate over suicide is the only philosophical question. All atheists who are intelligent and honest with themselves are also unhappy. All others are whistling past the graveyard.

  111. tribune7 Thank you for your advice.Apologies for not knowing.Understand better now.I would read you as a loyal friend after what we have gone through so far,thank you fever so much.

  112. StephenB –great post.

  113. StephenB:

    The truly intelligent atheist, however, is miserable because he refuses to delude himself about the implications of his belief system. He understands that everything he cares about will either die, get lost, or be forgotten. Even if he does somehow leave to his children something that “appears” to be valuable, he realizes that it (and they) will return to dust. It will be as if they had never lived at all. Nothing will have any lasting value including any sense of purpose that he may try to create for himself. If life has no meaning, then there is no way to change that fact by pretending to invent one. To try is to play a fools game.

    Stephen,

    I would love to meet you one day. This is one of the most eloquent and concise expositions of the underlying impetus for my journey from militant atheism to Christianity.

    It is a simple logical deduction, which haunted me from the time I was a child. The intellectual atheist crowd with which I was associated in my early years, when I confronted them with such challenges, would always reply with something like, “You’ll live on in the memories of your loved ones.” Nonsense, I thought. Who remembers his great, great grandfather or great, great grandmother? How do they live on in my memory?

    But the clincher was knowing that one day the sun will become a red giant. Its corona will surpass the orbit of the earth. The seas will boil away, the atmosphere will be stripped away and blown into deep space, and the earth will become molten on its surface. Then it will freeze and become lifeless forever in a universe decaying into heat death. There will be no record of anything that anyone has ever done or thought, and no one to interpret or appreciate those nonexistent records. The accomplishments of Newton and Beethoven will be lost forever. Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa will have the same destiny — eternal, meaningless oblivion.

    If the evidence were that this is the actual state of things, then so be it. However, the evidence of modern science is that the universe and life were designed from the beginning with great intelligence and forethought for an ultimate purpose that transcends space and time.

  114. Okay, I’ll jump on the pile too…

    110 is an outstanding post, Stephen.

    My understanding of Existentialism is that it was largely a reaction against the existential horrors of Nihilism that you point out so well. But of course, subjective arbitrary attribution of value to one’s own existence is no substitute for the real thing. It is enough to put one into the throes of depression.

  115. 115

    StephenB has the strawmen animated and dancing. Why would one assume that an atheist (and I’m not one myself) could take no pleasure in the day-to-day events of life, while still believing in the finality of death? It seems that Stephen (and others here) are denying the existence of altruism, because their motivation for being “good” is, by definition, selfish. If you believe that God created the evil you claim to be restraining yourself from, doesn’t the fault lie with the manufacturer?

  116. 1- the value of a diamond is subjective and materialistic in nature

    2- What is “objective truth”?

  117. 117

    GilDodgen said:

    …the evidence of modern science is that the universe and life were designed from the beginning with great intelligence and forethought for an ultimate purpose that transcends space and time.

    I agree that there is abundant evidence and justification for the Design Inference, but how may we know about the “ultimate purpose” without invoking religious arguments? Don’t we want to steer clear of that sort of thing, and stick to the science?

  118. Tribune 7, Gil, crandaddy, thanks for the kind words.

  119. —–Earvin: “Why would one assume that an atheist (and I’m not one myself) could take no pleasure in the day-to-day events of life, while still believing in the finality of death?”

    You seem to have missed the point. The argument is that mediocre atheists substitute pleasure for happiness out of a reaction to meaninglessness, and that intelligent atheists refuse to play that game.

    —–“It seems that Stephen (and others here) are denying the existence of altruism, because their motivation for being “good” is, by definition, selfish. If you believe that God created the evil you claim to be restraining yourself from, doesn’t the fault lie with the manufacturer?”

    Please read these comments more carefully. I said nothing at all about altruism, nor did anyone else. You are mixing themes and reading your own convinctions into what others are writing.

  120. 120

    Stephen,
    The point was that it seems possible to me for an atheist to act altruistically (i.e., without concern for one’s own reward)while your entire thesis seems to be that you are “good” out of a deliberate effort to overcome your own intrinsic evilness, and thus please God. That’s the antithesis of altruism.

  121. Gill, I have come to believe that atheism is not an intellectual position at all. It is more like a cry of wrath. Why else would atheists discount the scienfitic evidence for design and seek out extravagant explanations such as “infinite multiple universes.” For that matter, why else would they discount reason’s first principles and assume that something can come from nothing?

  122. StephenB

    Believing in God just doesn’t solve the problem of meaning for me. How do I know I am not just an accident in an intelligently designed universe?

    The fact that a universe with no teleological origin can have no meaning is also not a reason to start believing in God. Just choosing to believe won’t make God pop into existence if it doesn’t already exist.

  123. 123

    StephenB said,

    Why else would atheists discount the scienfitic evidence for design and seek out extravagant explanations such as “infinite multiple universes.”
    For that matter, why else would they discount reason’s first principles and assume that something can come from nothing?

    Isn’t it possible (and perhaps even advisable)to accept the evidence for design while leaving theism out of it? Don’t theists believe that something can come from nothing?

  124. —–Earvin: “The point was that it seems possible to me for an atheist to act altruistically (i.e., without concern for one’s own reward)while your entire thesis seems to be that you are “good” out of a deliberate effort to overcome your own intrinsic evilness, and thus please God. That’s the antithesis of altruism.”

    Earvin, I can only reiterate that I have not taken up that topic. I will, however, offer a brief observation. An atheist can certainly love his children, even though he doesn’t acknowledge any such an immaterial reality as love exists. That is just one of his many contradictions. To be sure, he can also act unselfishly, but that is because he is a different kind of creature than he thinks he is. A mere collection of clanging molecules can’t love; only a non-material soul can do that. Equally important, the atheist cannot provide any rational justification for his altruistic behavior, nor can he hope that, in the end, it will make any difference. If he thinks it through, he can’t be happy about that.

  125. —-Laminar: Just choosing to believe won’t make God pop into existence if it doesn’t already exist.”

    I agree. One of mankinds silliest statments came from Voltaire who said, “If God didn’t exist, mankind would have had to invent him.” So, I am with you on that one.

    The good news is, though, that both science and philosophy testify to the existence of a Creator. Also, it appears that this same creator left clues about his existence and his wisdom. Apparently, he wanted to be found and acknowledged as creator.

  126. Did most atheists go to aetheist schools or to schools slack on some truth that “Atheist” said everything is a lie?Lost his thinking.

  127. I can’t support this with research of any sort, but I think it’s probably true: regarding daily life and behavior, and overall “happiness,” there is no significant difference between theists and atheists. So, my questions for you all: if I’m right, what are the implications for this whole discussion; and if I’m wrong, is there any data that shows it?

  128. StephenB,

    A great post but I want to add something that I find of value from Sartre. One of the things that I found useful was that we are essentially defined but what we choose. We have choices all the time and even the prisoner chained to the wall in a dungeon can make choices (how he reacts to his guards and his situation for example) and those choice will define him. So this philosophy which is not necessarily atheistic is something I found valuable.

  129. Jerry, I agree again. Existentialists have said some truly profound things, and sometimes that “in your face” attitude about the power of will can create much good in its own context. As is usually the case, a bad philosophy often consists of taking a good thing and running to far with it. We shouldn’t lose track of that good thing, which is the power of the will. In fact, our current culture is flawed to the extent that it denies the power of self-control and will power, reducing all moral problems to medical problems. We could use a little bit more of that element of the existential spirit, if you get my drift.

  130. “Pubdef–So, my questions for you all: if I’m right, what are the implications for this whole discussion; and if I’m wrong, is there any data that shows it?”

    As far as I can tell your position is that there is “probably” no God and methinks that is pretty weasely.

  131. 131

    There probably is a God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life. :)

    For real enjoyment, not momentary and course enjoyment, comes from communion and relationship with God. Like CS Lewis said, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

  132. tribune7 — if you had no intention of addressing my questions, why did you bother posting? My post was about the difference, if any, between theists and atheists, not the substance of their philosophical differences. I raised it because so much of the posting on this thread presumes that they are very different.

  133. Stephen:

    Gil, I have come to believe that atheism is not an intellectual position at all. It is more like a cry of wrath.

    This is precisely correct. I play keyboards with the worship team at our church. Before each service the worship team congregates and prays. During one such congregation I told a very wise man about my former antipathy to Christianity. He said, “You didn’t just dislike Christianity, you wanted to hunt it down and kill it.” This rang so true, and I must admit that to this day I have guilt feelings about trying to hunt down and kill that to which I ultimately owe everything.

    My consolation is Romans 8:28.

  134. Gil Dodgen @ 105

    Please accept my apologies for not making my point clear. I was not referring to your vitriol, but that to which I have been subjected over the last several years on the Internet as a result of being an ID apologist and making my name public. I’ve been called every name in the book, the most common being IDiot.

    No problem, I guessed that what was what you meant. Both sides are prone to jeering at the opposition. It’s par for the course in a team sport like ID v Darwinism.

  135. StephenB @ 110

    Sartre and Camut were not miserable because of their disposition. They brooded because they were intelligent enough to know the difference between subjective and objective value. A man can give a woman a piece of glass and tell her that it is a diamond. For a while, she will place subjective value on the crystal and that will be enough. Sooner or later, though, she will come to realize that is has no objective value and she will resent it.

    Can there be any value without a ‘valuer’? Isn’t it more that value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder? We value platinum or diamonds because of their relative scarcity whereas lead or quartz crystal are worth less to us because they are more commonplace. But, if we were not here, could any of it be said to have any value. In a sense, it is all relative. For example, I remember in one of C M Kornbluth’s science-fiction novels rings made of oak were worn as a sign of wealth because, in the future setting of the story, wood had become so scarce it was worth more than gold. Does anyone doubt that is quite possible?

    In the case of your little parable the woman might still value the piece of glass if she believed it was give as a token of genuine love for that reason. However, if she discovered that not only was it a relatively worthless piece of glass but it was given in a cynical attempt to buy her favors then she would certainly resent being lied to by the donor on both counts.

    Atheists, none of whom believe in objective truth may, nevertheless, place a subjective value on life. So much so, that they are likely to obsess over temporary things like pleasure, power, and fame. Indeed, they will almost always make little gods out of those things. Disbelieving in all objective value, they will focus on the subjective and make the best of the present moment.

    Solipsism may be an intriguing philosphical standpoint but I doubt that there are any, on either side, who do not believe that there is an objective reality out there. But you are right in that most atheists believe that, if this life is all there is and all we can expect, then it makes sense to make the best of what we have.

    And making the best of what we have does not necessarily mean indulging in a lifelong orgy of sex, drugs and rock’n'roll, although I don’t doubt that there a few who think that’s an attractive prospect. There are also many who would take pleasure in composing, playing or just listening to music or reading and writing poetry or playing sports or travelling the world to experience its diversity or fashioning things with their hands or watching endless re-runs of Star Trek. These are all morally unobjectionable pursuits which, of course, being lucky enough to live in a relatively affluent and free Western society we have the opportunity to indulge in. We do not have to spend every waking minute just struggling to survive or being told what we can think, say, eat or do by political or religious masters.

    The truly intelligent atheist, however, is miserable because he refuses to delude himself about the implications of his belief system. He understands that everything he cares about will either die, get lost, or be forgotten. Even if he does somehow leave to his children something that “appears” to be valuable, he realizes that it (and they) will return to dust. It will be as if they had never lived at all. Nothing will have any lasting value including any sense of purpose that he may try to create for himself. If life has no meaning, then there is no way to change that fact by pretending to invent one. To try is to play a fools game.

    Agnostics or atheists, of course, would argue that is just what religion tries to do. It emerged, in part, precisely because it offered an comforting alternative to the terrifying prospect of a hopeless and Godless universe. It is plainly much more appealing but that doesn’t necessarily make it true. And, yes, the atheist view is bleak but, if that is really the truth, isn’t it better to face it rather than pretend it doesn’t exist?

    Sarte and Camut were intelligent enough to understand that. That is why they were miserable and that is why Camut pointed out that the debate over suicide is the only philosophical question.

    If this life is all we have, if something is better than nothing, then to throw it away before we have to makes no sense. Of course, if a life has become intolerable for some reason then ending it may be preferable to that individual. Otherwise, suicide is silly, Camus notwithstanding.

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